On The Agenda

The UN’s New Urban Agenda will shape global urbanisation but has little to say about architecture. RIBA’s inaugural International Week will explore how we can contribute, says president Jane Duncan


Jane Duncan

UN Habitat

‘RIBA International Week’
3-7 July RIBA, London W1

‘Change in the City’ conference
4 July RIBA, London W1, £125

For many years the RIBA has undertaken international events, such as the ‘Working Internationally’ conferences, as well as meeting and greeting international guests and speakers. In 2016 we published a new five-year vision, which has as its key mission statement that the RIBA will be “a global professional members’ organisation driving excellence in architecture”.

The International Week of events in July is the natural outcome of that drive for a more global outlook, kicked into action by the Brexit vote last year, and heightened by the need for architects to be alive to the opportunities afforded by the major urban changes taking place at a global level.


This inaugural International Week will focus on the New Urban Agenda – the outcome document agreed upon at the UN’s Habitat III cities conference in Quito, in October 2016. For the next 20 years this agenda will guide the urbanisation work of nation states, city and regional leaders, international development funders, UN programme directors and wider civil society.

This city-shaping document lays the groundwork for policies and approaches that will impact far into the future, but barely mentions architects or architecture, despite the skills and passion that we know we can bring to the task of building sustainable and resilient cities.

The New Urban Agenda lays the groundwork for policies and approaches that will impact far into the future, but barely mentions architecture”

In response, our International Conference will engage architects in the New Urban Agenda, grounding it in case studies from around the world, and focusing on the opportunities it presents for practices of all sizes. The conference will allow attendees to benefit from cutting edge research and expert knowledge to aid their own professional development. We aim to help identify critical areas of demand and opportunity for future city building, such as the provision of third-age housing, and in the impact of technology on the shaping and management of smart cities.

What the New Urban Agenda means for architects is a huge topic, and our day-long conference has attracted notable architects from around the globe to speak on topics ranging from innovation in housing to cultural heritage. David Chipperfield, Ma Yansong, Amanda Levete and Francis Kéré will be among those joining headliner Joan Clos of UN-Habitat. Other speakers include former mayor of Rio de Janiero, Eduardo Paes.


The conference is set within a week of activities, which present a platform for international networking and opportunities for partnering with organisations and individuals from around the world. It will bring together architects of all backgrounds to address the question of how both small and large practices can effect change on a city scale through innovative projects.

The main issue is that we need to be visible, be prepared and most importantly be relevant to those city leaders who so urgently need our input.